Talia, still shaken, walked upstairs to her room, trying to find solace in the closest thing she could call home. She didn’t have anyone anymore, at least not anyone who would understand her guilt. Zelda died because her decision to go with Loki wasn’t honored. The thoughts that ran through her mind were full of self-doubt, wondering if she had just been stronger, fought back, done something so Zelda wouldn’t have to have died.
Talia didn’t have a death wish, but she would have sacrificed herself in exchange for Zelda’s life to be saved.
Zelda was supposed to be immortal. All the things that should have killed her didn’t, and that was all taken away by the snap of a god’s fingers.
Loki had no right to play God himself.
Talia was about to open the door to her bedroom when she saw Ariel come down the hall towards her adjacent room. They looked at each other with compassion in their eyes. Ariel knew what happened, how unspeakable of a tragedy Zelda’s death was. Ariel couldn’t even begin to imagine what Talia was feeling, especially because she never showed her emotions and Ariel couldn’t read Talia. But, she didn’t have to understand everything to know that she was really, really hurting. Talia was hurting in a way that she refused to reveal to anyone except herself and her four-bedroom walls.
“Talia, let me know if there’s anything I can do. Maybe we can go out one night and have a girl’s night. Anything you need.”
Talia nodded in appreciation of Ariel’s generosity and quickly accepted her offer. After a week of isolation, Talia came out of her room and knocked at Ariel’s, fully dressed up in a red sparkly bustier, a black bodycon skirt, and black suede thigh-high boots.
“Let’s go to the bar, bitch. It’s Tequila Tuesday, let’s do some shots.”
Erik Kantos and his friends were in the bar that Talia and Ariel arrived in. Erik was waiting for this moment; it was no coincidence that he ran into them. This was all part of his plan, and he got excited knowing that he could finally make his peace with William Townsend and the world.
“Is that Talia Townsend, Erik?” One of his entourage asked.
“You bet.” He said, his lips gracing the edge of a glass. His eyes locked on her, and his lip curled up. He watched her every move, not wanting to lose sight of her. He had a plan.
“Who’s her friend?”
“Doesn’t matter. She’s hands-off. Don’t touch her.”
Meanwhile, on the other side of the bar, Talia made Ariel very aware of the strangers with their eyes locked on them.
“Ariel, do you see that hot guy? He’s been looking over here all night, and I think he’s into you.”
“Nah, I don’t think so.”
“Don’t make me do this-”
“Do what?!” Ariel said, alarmed as Talia took her by the arm and pushed through the crowd to the stranger.
“Have you met my friend, Ariel?” Talia said before running away, leaving them to their own devices.
It was hard to hear anything over the bass that shook the floor of the club, but the stranger bit his lip and smiled. Ariel knocked back a shot and wondered what she had to lose, shrugged and grabbed the stranger by the shirt. Melting into the crowd of sweaty party-goers, his hands immediately sunk to her waist and pulled her close. They danced with no room for the other to breathe, their lips eventually becoming well-acquainted. She tasted like tequila and he, hard whiskey laced his breath.
“Say you’re mine, I’m yours for the night.” The stranger said into Ariel’s ear, one of his hands on her side and the other on her ass. He had to alter his plan, he wanted to seduce Talia, but somehow this worked out better than he expected. He got a hookup and the revenge he was planning on.
The stranger got them another round and they continued to dance, their surroundings becoming blurrier and events continued to fade together. His hands had a firm grip on her waist as he sucked on the side of her neck. Talia was smug, knowing that she set Ariel up for the rest of the night. Ariel would certainly thank her later, seeing as how things were going at that moment. She was beginning to take bets as to when Ariel and the stranger nobody caught the name of over the loud music, we’re going to call it quits and go to someone’s apartment. Turns out, it wasn’t much longer, and Ariel found himself in his Lexus, speeding off to his SoHo apartment.
He parked his car and they headed into the elevator of his building, and before the doors even closed he cornered her and put his hand up against the wall by her head. She grabbed his belt loops and pulled him towards her, and his hand ran up her thigh. Her red blazer was almost as long as her skirt was short, and it wasn’t hard for him to get a feel on her underwear. He was wearing Calvin Klein boxers, but he wasn’t wearing them for much longer, as with anything else.
In his apartment, he led her through the minimalist boo chic rooms until they reached his bedroom. He didn’t seem like the type of guy to be interested in mahogany floors, high ceilings, big windows, a neutral palette, and houseplants, but she was into it. After all, he was still a stranger and knew nothing about his life. Who was she to make a judgment?
He tossed her down onto his bed, pushing off her blazer in the process before moving down to take off her black, thigh-high heels. They clattered onto the floor at the same time Ariel took her shirt off. Erik slipped his jeans off, then her skirt and his shirt joined the pile on the floor before they were both in their underwear.
He kissed up her legs and pulled off her underwear, tracing her curves as if he had known them forever. Her hands got lost in his loss, now taken out of their ponytail Erik had them in at the club. She gasped, reacting well to his touch. But she still didn’t know his name.
He looked up at her from his position between her legs, and breathed against her stomach,
“Say my name, sweetheart.”
“I would. The problem is, you never told me.” She responded. He immediately crawled up her body, so they were face to face and he held her hands, pulling her up to a sitting position. His face was centimeters away from hers, his thumb and forefinger holding her chin gently, her amber eyes reflecting back into his.
“Erik. My name is Erik.” He introduced, then paused.
“Say it,” he softly commanded. She breathed out his name like it was the most natural thing to ever roll off her tongue.
She wore his name out, saying it again and again, but he had to admit he liked the way she said his name, no matter how many times he heard it. She gave it a new voice, a new context that he found extremely satisfying.
She fell asleep and was lightly snoring by the time he got out of bed and grabbed his phone. He was waiting for the call from his friends. They had to have Talia by that point. If not, then something went wrong, and he was compromised.
Soon, he got the message that they were on their way. Erik felt a different surge of exhilaration that coursed through his body. He was finally going to get his revenge on William Townsend.
Back at the club, Talia left after she sobered up and got back into her Ferrari 812 alone. She was happy for Ariel who left with the hot stranger, but she was certainly going to check up on her to make sure things were fine. Knowing Ariel, if things weren’t fine, there would be bloodshed, and none of it hers.
Talia merged onto the highway to go back home, but she soon realized she was being tailgated by a particularly aggressive driver with their high beams on in the left lane. She flicked on her turn signal and shifted to the middle lane, but the driver followed. She knew she was being tailed, but she had no idea how to go about it. Again, she moved over a lane, trying to make it clear she was getting out of their way for them to pass her, but it was absolutely clear that they wanted her. After all, she was not in an inconspicuous car, how many other people in New York City had a Ferrari 812? She pulled over the rumble strips on the shoulder of the highway making her car shudder just a little bit as she rolled to a stop. She was preparing herself for anything, she even got her armor glove out of the glove box in case she needed to defend herself.
The driver and the passenger of the car tailgating her got out of their car that had stopped behind her. She saw them approach in her mirrors, and she made sure her doors were locked. She could still make a run for it, step on the gas and call it a day. But before she even got the chance to have second thoughts, the sound of the glass shattering in her window assaulted her ears. The tiny shards of tempered glass showered her hair and her clothes, littering the ground outside and the floor mats inside. The assailants delivered a swift blow to the face that knocked her out, they opened the door and pulled her over their shoulders and into their car. Talia’s Ferrari was left abandoned on the side of the highway, lights still on, keys still in the ignition and the doors wide open. It was almost a dare from her assailants, wanting people to find her car and give it a red flag. After all, if Erik was making a big deal out of this, so would they.
Erik reached into his nightstand drawer as quietly as possible, taking out a syringe and a tiny bottle of clear fluid. Ariel was already asleep, and he needed her to stay that way. His friends were already on their way with Talia, and there was no changing the plan at this point. He was compromised but was trying to do the best he could for the situation he was in. After all, he did take a girl back to his apartment because they both wanted to hook up, but he didn’t have to take her. That was his own fault, and he would take responsibility for whatever consequences happened as a result of it. He used the syringe to take out a few milliliters of the liquid, he tapped the chamber and pressed the plunger to get any air bubbles out. He didn’t want to kill her, after all.
“I’m sorry about this, Ariel.” He whispered before plunging the sedative into her bloodstream.
Erik opened his apartment door for his two friends to bring in Talia, she was slung over one’s shoulders like a freshly slaughtered deer. Funny, that wasn’t too far off about what would actually happen to her. Talia was starting to become conscious, and all she did was fight.
Talia, shaking glass shards out of her hair, was revving her engine for the fight. Talia managed to escape their grip and she went straight for Erik, getting in a good few knocks and punches on him. She was restrained again by means of a taser, and Erik was preparing his dramatic monologue as he picked his favorite knife from his collection.
In that same moment, Ariel stumbled into the living room, following the sounds of voices. Maybe Erik made her a cup of coffee, she thought before she could make out the voice as aggressive and the tone frightening.
“Shit, fuck, Ariel,” Erik exclaimed, running into another problem- and that was Ariel waking up when she shouldn’t have. He had two extremely strong Gods, angry and confused, with their eyes locked on him. At that moment, Erik froze like a deer in headlights. He didn’t want to hurt Ariel, she was unexpected collateral. She wasn’t part of his plan, but she made her presence known to him entirely.
Ariel didn’t know what she was seeing. She knew Erik was there, and so were the other two strangers from the bar that were with him, and they were restraining Talia. She didn’t know what to do either. Erik made the split-second decision to skip the long and drawn out explanation for his reasons why Talia’s death mattered, and instead he gave Ariel three words she would never forget.
“Look away, sweetheart,” Erik said with a hint of genuine empathy, less than a moment before he plunged his dagger into Talia’s heart. Ariel gasped quickly, unable to move, unable to divert her gaze-
She saw Talia’s eyes glaze over and stare at her as she collapsed face-first on the hardwood floor. Ariel was completely frozen, and time was passing her in utter slow motion. Ariel wasn’t in a haze anymore; her world was vividly clear. She blinked once, twice, and her feet began to lead her before her brain got the message as to what the plan was.
Ariel realized that she was feeling so hazy due to whatever was in the syringe by the bed, that was the first thing she saw when she woke up. This was her last shot, she ran as fast as she could and grabbed the bottle and the needle, filling it up as much as she could before Erik found out her plan, and she injected the sedative in him. He was a tall and heavy man and would need every last drop. From then, she didn’t have a choice but to throw his body over her shoulders and haul him back to the Gods compound. She had to walk past Talia’s body on the ground, but she was in fight or flight mode and was having tunnel vision. She was just trying to survive, but there was no guarantee that Talia’s body would still be there by the time she got back to take her.
Stranded without a car, she grabbed the keys to his Lexus, tossed his body in the trunk just in case he woke up, and she did her best to drive back to the compound.
She parked the car, popped the trunk and dragged his unconscious and bloody body by the ankle back into the compound to meet everyone who was waiting. William was worried sick; he had been ever since the police called him about the abandoned car whose title was in his name.
“Get him into a fucking jail cell before he wakes up again! That’s Erik Kantos and he just killed Talia.”
Ariel’s statement took a moment for everyone to comprehend. It couldn’t be true, that was unthinkable, but then again it was entirely possible. William’s heart skipped a beat, but his brain did not. He didn’t even fully comprehend what Ariel had said, but he would start figuring out. He didn’t have time to waste to hesitate to find his daughter’s body and locking up her killer. He had a whole lifetime left to grieve it.
“Tell me where she is, tell me what happened, NOW!” William yelled, grabbing Ariel by her shoulders. She shrunk away, intimidated by him.
“I don’t know, we went to the club and she had like 8 tequila shots and we met this guy named Erik and I hooked up with him in this nice SoHo apartment, and when I woke
up Talia was there with two guys and he killed her.”
William relinquished his grip on her as he began to understand that she didn’t have anything to help him. She was in shock and it was a miracle she could tell him that much.
“Fine. But, you better go down there and wait for him to wake up because you better find out what happened.”
Ariel slung his body over her shoulders again, taking him to a secure cell in the underground annex of the compound. She took off his clothes, weapons, everything he had and left him with nothing.
William was hyper-focused on finding Talia, and he went directly to SoHo where he would find Erik’s apartment. Jason helped him find it; once he was there he double-parked the Audi and he blew past building security.
William knew exactly what he would find when he got up to the apartment, but it didn’t help him when he stepped in a dark pool of her blood. The door was left wide open, the end of the knife was poking out of Talia’s back and there was a trail of dried blood down her cheek to accompany her wide-open eyes. They told William everything he needed to know.
He cried over her body, kneeling in the evidence that her life was poured out before him. He lost the person that he was living for. William, who had gone through the worst of times when she was small, kept going through the darkness because he needed to be there for Talia. She pulled him from the brink of death, she brought him back every single time. Now, who was he living for? Talia was everything he wished he could be, and all he felt was darkness again.
His car was towed off the street and when the NYPD arrived, they had to pull him away from grieving. He couldn’t even give a statement. The forensics crews and the coroner arrived, and they processed the scene and moved her body onto a stretcher.
They took the knife out of her chest.
They closed her eyes.
They put her arms by her side.
They draped a white sheet over her still silhouette.
Everything, in the eyes of William Townsend, was black.